Daily Chess Improvement: Endgame Complication!


White to move! Is this a win, draw, or loss for white? How should white proceed? Please post multiple moves and explain your answer.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1


What white would like to do here is to either get black to move that bishop off of the b8-h2 diagonal so that the white bishop can take at b6- black would be unable to play cxb6 because c7 would lead to a new queen. Additionally, if white can't get the bishop off that diagonal, then getting the bishops off the board would be nice since the black king would have retreat to guard against white playing d6 followed by c7 when the pawns get exchanged- this would give white a free hand to gobble up the h-pawn and then move on the queen side.

The big issue here at the start is that if that white plays 1.fxe4, then the black king recaptures and gains enough time to make white's queenside majority worthless- the black king just gobbles up c4- this will either win or draw for black. So, the first move is pretty easy to spot- the white king has to keep the black king from crossing the 4th rank, so...


So, lets see what happens if black exchanges pawns:

2.Kxf3 h5 (counterplay)

White is threatening both 4.Bg3 exchanging off the bishops, and is threatening 4.Bxb6 if black plays 3....Be7 (with the idea of Bd8 to protect c7). Let's play it out where black agrees to exchange bishops:

3............Kf6 (if Be7, then 4.Bxb6+- since a5 also falls if the bishop isn't taken)
4.Bg3 Bg3 (if Ke7, then 5.Bxd6 wins similar to what is below)

And you should be able to see black's problem here- white always has d6 in play, so the black king will be tied down to e7 and d8 from here on in- the h-pawn will fall. Let's play it out:

5............Ke5 (nothing better)
6.Kh4 Kd6

Here, 6......b5 does nothing- white can take with the c-pawn, and while the d-pawn now falls, white has the same kind of threat with b6 now instead of d6, and the black king can do nothing but guard against this since any capture on a4 is met immediately with b6 winning. Continuing from above:

7.Kxh5 Ke7
8.Kg6 Kd6
9.Kf6 Kc5
10.Ke5 Kxc4 (nothing better)
11.d6 and white wins.

The last real thing I want to do here is to show what happens if black doesn't exchange pawns on his first move, but instead plays 1....h5:

1.Kg2 h5

With the same threats as before- either Bxb6 if the black bishop moves off the diagonal, or Bg3 if black moves the king, and captures either pawn on 2...e3 or 2....h4, and then returns the bishop to f2 if needed to threaten the b6 pawn, or to ge to exchange bishops once again. I leave the rest to the curious to work out.